Monday, March 31, 2008

Opening Day.

3-31-08 SHORT HILLS: Today is rainy, but the last several days have been sunny if cool. I have been busy pruning winter kill from the evergreen shrubs and trees and deciduous shrubs when I could tell what was dead. I have also trimmed the foundation plantings and trimmed shrubs and trees on the paths and walkways and cleaned up the patios and the pool area. I siphoned water out of the pool to drop the level to the minimum.

The rhododendrons continue to do poorly. I pruned a lot of dead wood off a stand of old rhodos. It broke my heart to cut them back, but if there is any chance for recovery, they need the room and space for new growth. They never recovered from that drought a few years ago. The shrub population is changing. Rhododendrons, dogwood and laurels are fading while holly, yew, burning bush, barberry and viburnums are thriving with many volunteers, at least in this yard.

Hard to believe baseball has started.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Spring Cleaning.

3-26-08 SHORT HILLS: It was a gorgeous spring day almost reaching the sixties. I did clean up in the area where the utility pole and tree came down a few weeks ago. I pruned the shrubs that were damaged by the falling tree parts and cut up the fallen, broken branches for mulch. Several forsythias are reduced to a couple stalks two or three inches tall, but they’ll be back. Forsythia can endure total neglect and enormous trauma. Other shrubs that were beat up include: spice bush, burning bush, buckthorn, witchhazel, honey suckle. I replaced three broken fence rails and buried some of the tree trash and fertilized. The rest is up to the plants.

Here are a couple of the crocuses:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Turkey Surprise.

3-25-08 SHORT HILLS: We’re back in NJ. Yesterday I started spring clean up here, taking all the fallen sticks and branches off the shrubs. The windstorms of the past few weeks shook all those branches loose. I also spread 70 pounds of HollyTone on the acidophilic shrubs and trees and 80 pounds of standard 10-10-10 on the non-acidophiles and the spring bulbs. That took most of the day.

In the morning Judy spotted three wild turkeys in our yard. They were here for about 15 minutes, but stayed in the shrubs and don’t let us get close. The Canada geese are much less wary.

Some trees and shrubs put leaves out before flowers and others do the reverse. Hydrangeas and viburnums are opening leaf buds, while forsythia, spicebush and andromeda are showing flowers.

New blooms: crocus, forsythia, vinca minor.

Turkey hiding in opening forsythia. You can see the tail and markings on the back.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

First Day of Spring.

3-20-08 VERMONT: Well, first day of spring here in the Antarctic and we had snow, wind and overcast. I think I saw a penguin at the bird feeder this morning. Yesterday we had another four inches of snow that needed shoveling today when it all slid off the roofs. Today we only had flurries.

Valerie, Steve, Maggie and Lucy were here for a few days. Monday and Tuesday were sunny, and Val, Maggie and I skied. Maggie is now a confident beginner. Lucy sledded under the supervision of Steve and Judy. They left this morning, driving off through the snow, slush and mud.

Congrats to Anna, Great Job!


It doesn't really look like Spring.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

More Snow.

3-16-08 VERMONT:

This picture of the dining room window shows the height of the snow pile. We did have another dusting this morning.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Another Beautiful Blanket of White.

3-15-08 VERMONT: We got an overnight surprise—three inches of new snow. Just what we were hoping for. It is pretty if a bit repetitive at this point. It did give us another chance to shovel. I got to the Skiway after a few errands and chores. The skiing was good. There was a flock of twenty or so turkeys on Rte. 113 in Thetford.

New Snow.

We actually had plenty. These piles accumulate from snow sliding off the roof. Unfortunately it falls inwards on the porch.

Plenty of fun for everyone.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ice Water for Everyone.

3-14-08 VERMONT: Tomorrow is the Ides of March, beware, Caesar. Sorry, reader[s]. It doesn’t look like spring here. There is three feet of snow on the ground, the piles around the house partially cover the downstairs windows, the road is a maze, but it is all softening. In the afternoon, the road is muddy, and the snow is corn snow.

That purple thing is the top of a park bench.

The south end of the pond is always the first spot to melt because inflow, from springs and over the ground, erodes the ice from underneath. First Chloe broke through in a small spot, and a few minutes later Sam and Nick both exploring the new hole, enlarged it. Sam climbed out by herself, but Nick needed me to give him a tug. I carefully sidled up toward the hole and gave his collar a pull. A bit later Gus managed to fall in and Judy rushed up and, of course, splashed through up to her waist. She said that the water was cold. The hole was now the size of a bathtub.

After her shower and change of clothes and boots, Judy decided to cover the hole. She got a piece of plywood and went to place it over the hole, but got wet again, but only up to mid calf this time. So far, I have managed to stay dry.

Moral: Don’t stamp around the hole in the ice.

New blooms: Are you kidding? The sap, however, is running.

Maple sap collecting.

Puppy Play

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wind Storm.

3-12-08 SHORT HILLS: Four days ago, Saturday, we had several inches of rain, culminating in a severe windstorm. We lost a big white ash along Great Hills Road that fell into the wires, breaking the utility pole and hanging over the street. The police closed the street. We were unaware until later in the evening when we saw the flashing lights. Our electric wires and cable wires were pulled loose from the house, but, somehow, service was not interrupted. Many homes in the area did lose power. Three other trees in the neighbors’ yards behind us were also blown over, all by south winds. The windstorm made noise like a jet plane taking off. One of the trees behind us fell on our split rail fence and did some damage. Another fell on neighbor’s roof and skylight.

Broken Pole and Tree.

Sunday I played pick-up-sticks and cut the fallen tree off the back fence with the reciprocating saw and repaired the fence with spare rails we had in the garage. One fence post was split vertically. I screwed it together as a temporary fix to maintain the integrity of the fence. Later on Sunday, an electric company worker in a bucket truck cut the top off of the ash tree, but couldn’t do anything else by himself. The street remained closed to traffic.

Monday I stapled the wire mesh back on the fence and replaced a few other broken rails and took some big branches to the dump. The street stayed closed.

Tuesday was the big rehab. Eleven trucks from the power company, PSE&G, and Verizon arrived in the morning. They propped up the broken pole and leaning tree and then took the rest of the tree down in small pieces. Then they replaced the utility pole after the gas and water companies identified their line locations so those lines wouldn’t be damaged. They also took down some of our fence in the work zone. After the new pole went up, PSE&G transferred their lines to the new pole, and then Verizon moved theirs and Millburn Fire Department fire alarm lines.

A Veritable Army.

Today Comcast repaired their line and reattached it to the house. Stacey Electric is replacing the electric feed to the house because the original line was damaged in the trauma. Frank’s Tree was here this morning to start the clean up with a giant chipper which ground up chunks of trunk a foot in diameter. They have to come back for the biggest pieces and Verizon has to get the rest of their pole. When all that is finished, I will repair the fence and all the damage to the shrubs and small trees in the work zone.

New blooms: andromeda.


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Thursday, March 06, 2008


3-6-08 SHORT HILLS: Well folks, now it does feel like spring. We have had a few warm,in the fifties, days with rain, and the snow is 99% gone. We have NJ mud season. This yard is squishy to walk on. When Nick chases his ball, he does a skid stop and leaves deep furrows five feet long. New grass is visible. The maples and elms have visible buds and the treetops show color. Day lily shoots are visible. The snowdrops are out.

I cut down broken bamboo stalks, started deadfall clean up and took the cutting to the dump.

New blooms: snowdrops.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Rising Sun.

3-2-08 SHORT HILLS: The beginning of March, only a few weeks of winter left. At this point in the year, the sun is on the steep part of its curve moving from about 12° of latitude below the equator on February 21st up to the equator on the vernal equinox, March 21st, and then to 12° above the equator on April 21st. That excursion is half of the sun’s total north-south yearly variation completed in sixty days. The reverse happens between August and October.

On the ground it doesn’t feel like spring. We have had a series of snowstorms, all followed by warming and rain that took care of the snow. Is global warming over? No way. Not until the carbon dioxide levels are lowered which won’t happen for decades after intervention begins, which it hasn’t. Our cold and wet winter may be due to La Nina, the opposite of El Nino. Anyway, as they say, climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.

Gus the puppy has almost doubled his weight in the past three weeks. Chloe is a good auntie and roughhouses with Gus several times a day. Sam’s attitude is “whatever”. She doesn’t interact with him. Nick is still jealous and resentful. He hasn’t attacked the puppy again, but usually turns his back and stalks off when we play with Gus.

Gus is gonna look this in a few months.